If you don’t think “sincerely held religious beliefs” are sufficient to allow a baker to refuse business to a black person or to allow an adoption agency to refuse to adopt out to black parents, you cannot support that same type of discrimination against gay people.
It is different you say? Black people can’t hide being black you say? So what you’re telling me is that if a black person could hide their skin color easily that discrimination against them would then be acceptable? Of course not, that is stupid. So don’t try to defend homophobia that way.
It is different you say again? Black people suffered more oppression? That isn’t really true. But irrespective of who was “more oppressed,” are you suggesting that only the most oppressed one of several highly oppressed groups deserves not to be discriminated against? Again, the argument falls flat.
If you believe that there is nothing wrong with refusing service to either blacks or gays (or any other group) then your world-view is at least coherent. I’d argue you are a highly unethical person, but at least logically coherent. But if you do believe it is unacceptable for a black person to be refused service for being black but think it is acceptable to do it to gay people, in that case you are logically incoherent and a terrible person rather than just a terrible person.
Slavery and Christianity
The comparison of the prejudice and oppression against the gay community to that of the black community has more merit than many bigots want to admit. Religion, for instance, was a definite source of support for the oppressors in both cases.
There are multiple Bible versus backing it up, and none condemning it. You can’t just dismiss this by saying, “oh, that was in the Old Testament.” What, god changed her mind? Slavery was moral then but now it is not? The religious person would respond with, “well, god had to speak to people in ways they could understand.” So what you’re telling me is that she could forbid extra-marital sex, masturbation, mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, coveting your neighbors goat or wife (they were basically considered on the same level), and all the rest, but she couldn’t have forbidden owning other human beings as chattel property? Get out of here with that.
As a side note, I keep referring to god as “she” to piss off fundies mad because the NIV replaced male gendered words seen in the KJV with neutral ones more accurate to the gender neutral Greek words translated from.
Getting back on topic, support of slavery isn’t just in the Old Testament. It is in the New Testament as well: Ephesians 6:5 (NIV) – “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.” And the New Testament lacks any condemnation of slavery.
Yes, it was Christians also fighting against slavery. But that is because almost everybody was Christian. Christians were the only people around to do the job, so of course both sides were populated with them. Although, pro slavery Christians had a lot more unambiguous Bible passages to draw support from.
American blacks had it terrible during slavery, terrible during Jim Crow, and are still experiencing many terrible ripple effects of that historic racism (and some modern racism). That makes it all the more perplexing why studies very consistently find that the black community on average uses the very same religion that was used to oppress them to oppress LGBT people (Herek & Capitanio, 1995). Pew finds that black Protestants are second in homophobia only to white evangelicals. The most supportive of gay rights being the religiously unaffiliated followed by white mainline Protestants. By race/ethnicity, African American responses indicated that they were on average the least supportive of gay rights (marriage equality in particular) relative to White and Hispanic people.
Religion and historic oppression of homosexuals
As for the claim that black slavery trumps historic homosexual oppression I would say that they aren’t comparable. Not because one is drastically worse than the other, but because they are an apples to oranges comparison. So no, the “my oppression was worse than your oppression” claim cannot reasonably be made here.
But for those skeptical of the struggles gay and lesbian people have endured throughout history and into the modern day, you need to study your history better.
Christian prejudice against homosexuality is not a recent development. A Benedictine monk of the 11th century by the name of Peter Damian popularized the word sodomy (sodomia), describing it as sexual acts between men including touching and anal penetration (Licence, 2013; Pequigney, 2004). Damian considered such acts as self-pollution and a serious vice. Yet another theologian, Alain de Lille of 12th century France railed against homosexual behavior. He placed it and homicide as the two most grievous sins (Scanlon, 1995). Saint Thomas Aquinas of the 13th century taught that homosexuality was one of several crimes against nature itself. Another crime was masturbation, which he considered the beginning of a slippery slope to sodomy and bestiality (Shepard, 2004). His Summa Theologica has often served as the basis of laws against sexual behavior and homosexuality.
When settling the Americas in the 16th through 18th centuries, French, English, and Spanish Christians attempted to discourage and end same sex relationships and cross-dressing among Native Americans (Lutes, 2000; Shibusawa, 2012).
In 1906 Kaiser Wilhelm II was told by Friedrich von Holstein that Philipp zu Eulenberg, a close friend of the Kaiser, was on a list of people suspected of “homosexual behavior” (Massie, 1991). With homosexuality being officially oppressed in Germany and most of Europe, the scandal that followed ruined Eulenberg. A similar scenario had played out when several years earlier the brother of Austria’s Emperor Franz Joseph was banished for being gay. As recently as 1952 in England Alan Turing, a pioneer in computer information who helped decode German cyphers, was convicted of “gross indecency” because his homosexual relationship was discovered. After this discovery he was forced to undergo hormone injections to reduce libido. As a result of his world being turned upside-down he eventually committed suicide by ingesting cyanide.
During the 1950s in America, a time when McCarthyism was in a state of fever pitch, the gay community was caught up in the Red Scare persecution. A general stigma against homosexuality existed and was fueled by a vigorous push to defend “western culture,” including Christian interdictions against same-sex romantic relationships (Shibusawa, 2012). This resulted in morality legislation against homosexuals holding government office, consequently leading to hundreds of expulsions and decimated careers. The label Lavender Scare was coined to identify the targeting of LGBTQ+ people during McCarthyism.
It was not even until 1973 with an updated edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual II that homosexuality ceased being labeled as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. Even then, that edition retained a reference to homosexuality as a sexual orientation disturbance. It was not until 1987 with the the DSM-3-R that homosexuality was finally removed altogether. The World Health Organization did not remove “homosexuality” from its classification until the printing of the tenth revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) in 1992. Of course, modern theocratic gay-hating scientifically illiterate bigots say these positive changes were only made because of political correctness run amok. The idea that the ideas they use to support their prejudices against gay people are contradicted by good scientific evidence is a terrifying proposition to them.
At present day bigots have passed laws allowing discrimination against gay people in the adoption agency restricting. They’re also fighting as hard as possible to get conservatives on the Supreme Court so that gay marriage equality (among may other topics) can be challenged and overturned.
Islamic Oppression of Homosexuals
It isn’t just the Christians attacking gay people either.
Querying primarily Muslim population in Turkey, Saraç (2015) discovered a strong correlation between males’ religiosity and homonegativity. Likewise there was a significant moderate correlation between females’ religiosity and homonegativty. Very much like Christianity, Islam contains homophobic doctrines in its holy books; the more intensely a Muslim holds to those traditional doctrines the more they reflect the negative feelings of those doctrines towards homosexual people. This confirms earlier research done in Turkey, and it aligns with similar investigations in the United States on primarily Christian populations (e.g., Gelbal & Duyan, 2006; Herek & Capitanio, 1995; Schulte & Battle, 2004)
Jäckle and Wenzelburger (2015) ranked religions based on several criteria on how homonegative they are today. The authors ranked Islam as the most homonegetive. The second was a group including Catholicism, Protestant Free Churches, and Orthodox Christianity. The most tolerant were atheists, followed by Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.
Modernity has established itself firmly enough to make it clear that racism shouldn’t be accepted. Even people who are unambiguously racist to others refuse to see themselves as racist. However, gay people are still open season for bigots. That is how you end up with incoherent belief-systems that oppose certain oppression against African Americans yet support oppressing gay people in those ways. Without a doubt in 50 or 100 years when homophobia has become as universally accepted as bad as racism is today evangelists will try to take credit for ending gay oppression while at the same time defending oppression of another scapegoat for their religion. Like the quote by Steven Weinberg goes, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
- Gelbal, S., & Duyan, V. (2006). Attitudes of university students toward lesbians and gay men in Turkey. Sex Roles, 55(7–8), 573–579. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-006-9112-1
- Herek, G. M., & Capitanio, J. P. (1995). Black heterosexuals’ attitudes toward lesbians and gay men in the United States. Journal of Sex Research, 32(2), 95–105. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499509551780
- Jäckle, S., & Wenzelburger, G. (2015). Religion, religiosity, and the attitudes toward homosexuality—A multilevel analysis of 79 countries. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(2), 207–241. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2014.969071
- Licence, T. (2013). Of sodomites, effeminates, hermaphrodites, and androgynes: Sodomy in the age of Peter Damian. History, 98(330), 247–250. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-229X.12009
- Lutes, M. A. (2000). Berdache. In G. E. Haggerty (Ed.), Gay histories and cultures: An encyclopedia (pp. 176–177). New York City: Taylor & Francis.
- Massie, R. K. (1991). Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the coming of the Great War. New York: Random House Inc.
- Pequigney, J. (2004). “What the age might call sodomy” and homosexuality in certain studies of Shakespeare’s plays. Intertexts, 8(2), 117. Retrieved from http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/A134104507/LitRC?u=txshracd2629&sid=LitRC&xid=6b744de0
- Saraç, L. (2015). Relationships between religiosity level and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men among Turkish university students. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(4), 481–494. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2014.983386
- Scanlon, L. (1995). Speaking the unspeakable: Sexual regulation and the priesthood of genius. Romantic Review, 86(2), 213. Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/openview/bf4a3d1e7d35ea07dbbed7b4800b6120/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=1816663
- Schulte, L. J., & Battle, J. (2004). The relative importance of ethnicity and religion in predicting attitudes yowards gays and lesbians. Journal of Homosexuality, 47(2), 127–142. https://doi.org/10.1300/J082v47n02_08
- Shepard, B. (2004). Masturbating madness. Sexualities, 7(3), 363–368. https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460704044806
- Shibusawa, N. (2012). The Lavender Scare and Empire: Rethinking Cold War Antigay Politics. Diplomatic History, 36(4), 723–752. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7709.2012.01052.x